Uneven Ground: How Race and Origin Impact Economic Opportunity in Washington

Founded as a nation of immigrants, the United States has remained so throughout its expansion and development, and today, immigration continues to shape and reshape the country and its states. The U.S.’s history as an immigrant nation has created the rich racial and ethnic diversity that strengthens our society and creates the unique American experience that enables the country to thrive.

But while most public dialogue still revolves around the ideal that every hardworking person has an equal opportunity to succeed here – regardless of their status at birth – the facts tell us that is simply not the case. The troubling reality is that people of color and immigrants are simply not afforded the same opportunity that is made available to many white and native-born Washingtonians.

In Washington state circa 2016, people of color and foreign-born individuals face significant disadvantages at each stage of life; conversely, white and native-born people disproportionately receive, and benefit from, more economic opportunity than others. Not surprisingly, a wide variety of measures of economic security and indicators of upward mobility show that on average, whites consistently experience better outcomes than people of color, and the native-born population consistently experiences better outcomes than the foreign-born population.